The ultra lux location for Stephen K. Bannon’s Thursday arrest might be its own separate headache for the former Trump campaign chairman.
The 150-foot yacht on which Bannon was arrested in coastal Connecticut belongs to a Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui.
Bannon and Guo have faced mounting scrutiny over their relationship in recent months, both in the press and reportedly from federal law enforcement. In particular, efforts to raise millions of dollars for a media company the two are linked to have reportedly attracted attention from Manhattan and Brooklyn federal prosecutors, as well as the FBI and SEC.
The probe suggests that Bannon may have more to worry about beyond his indictment this morning on charges related to a separate fundraising scheme involving a GoFundMe to finance the private construction of President Trump’s border wall with Mexico.
For years, Bannon has built a relationship with Guo, who sought U.S. asylum in 2017 while accusing Beijing of persecuting him over attempts to expose corruption.
That same year, he and Bannon teamed up publicly, creating a fund to “investigate Beijing.”
It’s not clear precisely when Bannon’s work with Guo began. The New York Times reported last year that it started “shortly after” the former Goldman Sachs exec left the White House in August 2017.
That has since morphed into a sprawling media effort, with Guo making regular appearances with Bannon in various online outlets. Guo Media, a company linked to the billionaire, agreed to pay Bannon at least $1 million per month for “strategic consulting services,” according to a memo obtained by Axios. An attorney for Guo told Axios that Guo was “merely the face” of the company.
Bannon, a former investment banker who has spent the past decade immersed in the world of right-wing filmmaking, has reportedly been spending a lot of time on Guo’s yacht recently.
Bannon hosted an episode of his Youtube show from the yacht’s deck on Wednesday.
Those charges went to allegations around a separate fundraising initiative, aimed at privately funding the Mexico border wall.
But Bannon’s media campaign with Guo appears to be aimed at stoking investigations into corruption in the Chinese government. Bannon, for his part, has long argued that China is America’s main geopolitical foe, and been an advocate of President Trump’s trade war with Beijing.
But recent reports have suggested that efforts to fund the media apparatus may have placed Bannon in the crosshairs of federal law enforcement.
The company, GTV media group, reportedly attracted more than $300 million in a private offering of shares this past spring.
But, according to the Journal, investors said that they never received documentation certifying their investments. Meanwhile, three banks have reportedly frozen access to GTV’s accounts.